The widespread assumption that Israel’s third election in the past year resulted in yet another hung parliament is wrong.
The non-stop chatter in the media over who Netanyahu will bully, browbeat or bribe in order to build a majority coalition misses the point entirely.
Look at the arithmetic. There are 120 seats in the Knesset, therefore a minimum of 61 is required for a majority. Netanyahu and the bloc that supports him has 58 seats, which means that the opposition has a majority of 62.
That’s not a hung parliament; the majority can form a coalition government any time it wants to. It can send Netanyahu to his date with the court in 10 days’ time as a regular citizen, shorn of his title, post and influence; one of us.
There’s no political problem here. What there is, of course, is racism – racism that is so pervasive and so deep that we don’t even recognize it when we see it; racism that has been around so long it looks normal. Our regular, comfortable, everyday racism.
The 62-seat majority includes 15 seats in which, God forbid, Arabs are sitting. Real Arabs – the sort who aren’t Jewish. They have the vote, they participate in elections – we even allow them, out of the goodness of our hearts, to sit next to us in the Knesset. That’s us, generous to a fault.
But, as Netanyahu so adroitly put it yesterday, “Arabs aren’t part of the equation.” Why, being citizens, voters and so forth, aren’t they part of the equation? “Because that’s the will of the people.”
Hang on: the will of the people is represented by the majority, surely? – which right now includes 15 Arab seats. Doesn’t that make them party to the will of the people?
Nope, the “people” in Israel means the Jewish people. Not being Jewish, Arabs can’t represent the will of the people. Arabs are non-people. They have no will. We were in that position once: a non-people with no will. Now we’re Jewish and democratic.
And let’s not fool ourselves that this Jewish racism is confined to Netanyahu and his allies on the right. It’s not only them who can’t even conceive of sitting in a government with Arabs. The racists de jour are on the so-called center-left; the generals who deign to dip their toes into political waters in order to set us straight.
It’s all those of us who say that Netanyahu is dismantling the country’s legal system, defiling our public life and generally leading us to hell in a bucket. We’d love to get rid of him, of course – we dream of it – but not if it means working with Arabs. Not if it means opening our eyes.
You can lead a Jew to water but you can’t make him think.